Professor Patrick Henry Winston ’65, SM ’67, PhD ’70


Every year, my wife forces me to take a vacation, this year on a cruise ship. My daughter and I were cooling off on the top deck after spending a little time in the exercise room when a woman approached and, looking at my daughter’s T-shirt, asked, “Are you a math whiz?”

Comparing herself to MIT students, rather than to the population at large, she replied, “Well, not exactly.”

“Oh, I’m a high school math teacher. I know what the square root of -1 is. That’s i. But what is the rest?”

“You can work it out!”

“Ok, E/c2–that reminds me of Einstein’s equation, E = Mc2. Ah! M. But what about PV/nR?”

Here, reaching back a long time, to 5.01, and wanting to hold up my end of the conversation, I helpfully supplied “Ideal gas law. Pressure times volume equals the number of moles of gas times the gas constant times the absolute temperature.”

“Oh, MIT!” she said.

A little later I ran into the teacher again and fell into a conversation about Artificial Intelligence, high-school teaching, and this and that. As we were about to go our different ways, I said “You seemed impressed that my kid went to MIT. Would you have been impressed if her T-shirt carried a Harvard logo?”

“Phooey. There are lots of Harvards.” Good point.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Meta Brown July 19, 2010 at 2:34 am

That’s a charming story. And a funny shirt.


Enrique Laya July 19, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Does the back of the T-shirt have the M^2 (M to the square) simbol?. The same way puzzles have an answer top side down…



gasstationwithoutpumps July 19, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I saw that t-shirt when in the MIT Museum a couple of weeks ago, and I ended up explaining it to someone in the store.
More on the MIT Museum on my blog at


kdj July 20, 2010 at 9:56 am

I had a similar conversation while wearing the shirt with the checkout guy at Trader Joe’s. He figured it out too.


Edward Kwok July 20, 2010 at 10:29 pm

I thought it resolved to mjT, but then I was 6.


Di July 22, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Why is this tagged “Modern Geekhood”? Does “Traditional Geekhood” exist? If so, we haven’t found it at UoC yet.


Mike July 22, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Traditional means “Old School”… as in “There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who do not”


rich July 28, 2010 at 7:52 pm

OK, I’m game. Where can I buy one?


Lori July 28, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I have had similar experiences wearing the same shirt at my local gym. Most people look at it as if it were written in Chinese. I can pick out the true nerds by those who try (and usually succeed) in deciphering it.


gasstationwithoutpumps July 29, 2010 at 5:44 am
js July 29, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I just looked up the shirt at the coop and am a bit disappointed. From the above article, it looks like the font is LaTeX, which of course would be awesome and nerdy. But alas, the real shirts have some awful helvetica-type font.


Phuket car rental July 30, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Where can I buy one?


Nancy DuVergne Smith August 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm

You can buy these t-shirts at the MIT Coop. This is a place to start: Good luck!


Maria-Katerina August 22, 2010 at 3:34 pm

My best story is a guy that noticed the date below and asked me if this is the date the equation was invented….


B. Billy September 1, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I love it! what on the back of the t-shirt and how can I get one?


Mark Boyle November 16, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I was just browsing interesting facts about shirts and this caught my attention. I’d also recommend checking out there are so funny shirts there, I couldn’t handle it 🙂


Alan Boulton March 6, 2015 at 4:06 pm

It’s a tad marred by the odd casing:


(As Edward Kwok also observed)


Toni Stimmel November 10, 2016 at 3:02 am

That formula stumped me for several days as I tried to interpret MJT. then it dawned on me, some people use “I”. That was a long time after I graduated (’60) and I had never used “i”.

I always liked the “And God said …. and there was light”

A colleague’s office was in a software group and he put a sign on his door that read “Heisenberg may have slept here”. When I saw it about a month later and busted out laughing, it drew everybody’s attention. One asked me what was so funny and when I told him, he and none of the others got it.


Michael McKinley June 27, 2017 at 3:43 am

Sad that this is listed as an equation when it is really three expressions. Sad panda.


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